Why Marco Rubio’s child support bill is a post-Roe gimmick

A new bill proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., would entitle a pregnant person to child support payments before giving birth.

The move is a haphazard response by conservatives who’ve relished the Supreme Court’s decision to rescind federal abortion rights but have faced criticism for their refusal to back social welfare policies that help pregnant people. 

And this move is little more than a gimmick. 

The so-called Unborn Child Support Act would allow a person to collect prenatal child support beginning the month of conception. And the payments could be retroactive, meaning a person could collect child support backpay if paternity wasn’t established until after birth.

Some states, such as Utah and Wisconsin, already have similar laws on the books.

On its face, Rubio’s bill may sound like a good thing. The Florida Republican, for his part, has said the bill is about doing “everything we can to support American mothers and their children.” This proposal falls far short of that claim. By no means am I suggesting child support payments are an affront to freedom. But they’re not the fix Rubio and his bill’s co-sponsors claim them to be. And this isn’t the time to give conservatives like them cover after backing an indisputably deadly decision to overturn federal abortion rights. 

For example, we have years of evidence to indicate child support payments can be both insufficient and difficult to collect, largely because many of the people required to pay them lack the necessary income. And due to social marginalization, others may lack the education needed to obtain that income. Rubio’s bill might create more punitive measures for people who don’t pay child support, but it does nothing to ensure that the people who’d be paying it actually have the money to do so. 

The bill is part of a broader framework Rubio has proposed as a makeshift response to pregnant people’s loss of bodily autonomy after Roe was overturned. And the other recommendations are just as dubious. For example, Rubio proposed a “New Parents Act,” which would force parents to borrow from their social security benefits in order to receive up to three months of paid family leave per child. 

Evidently, Rubio’s version of compassionate conservatism involves forcing people to give birth and then forcing them to draw from their retirement savings to pay for it. 

The senator has also proposed an expansion of the child tax credit, but his approach has been criticized for failing to provide it to low-income Americans (i.e., people who’d need it most). And he proposed a vague expansion of some social welfare benefits (like supplementary nutrition assistance) despite the fact millions of Americans, including undocumented migrants and many impoverished people, are routinely denied these benefits. 

Republicans like Rubio are finally getting the repressive world they want, in which states can effectively lay claim to pregnant people’s bodies and force birth. And instead of rejecting these clearly harmful abortion bans, they’re trying to soften the edges and present them as some form of compassion. 

It’s a tough sell, and no one is buying it. 


July 9, 202206:59